By Richard Dunn     3/3/2017

The vaunted defense for Mater Dei High’s football team proved throughout the season it was among the best in the CIF-Southern Section and Orange County, so it is no surprise to see six of the seven players who signed a National Letter of Intent to their respective colleges on Feb. 1 coming from that side of the ball.

The Monarchs enjoyed a hugely successful year, winning the Trinity League championship, advancing to the CIF Division 1 title game, in which they lost to league rival St. John Bosco at Angel Stadium, and finishing 13-1.

“They had a great game plan,” Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said after Bosco’s Braves defeated the Monarchs, 42-21, for the Division 1 championship. “We’ll be back.”

While the Monarchs will return several top-notch starters next season, including highly heralded sophomore quarterback JT Daniels, seven seniors who signed a National Letter of Intent will be competing at the collegiate level, including five in the Pacific 12 Conference.

Of the seven, only wide receiver Osiris St. Brown (Stanford) is not a defensive player. A first-team all-state selection by MaxPreps among large schools, the 6-foot-1, 178-pound St. Brown caught 56 passes for 1,069 yards and 18 touchdowns in Mater Dei’s celebrated season, ending his stellar prep career with 105 receptions for 2,011 yards and 31 touchdowns.

St. Brown averaged 19.2 yards per catch in his career and was considered one of the top prospects in the country. He chose Stanford over several other schools, including Notre Dame, where his older brother, Equanimeous St. Brown, is a 6-4 wide receiver. A third brother, Amon-Ra St. Brown, is a junior wide receiver at Mater Dei.

“Osiris is a really smart player, so he’s going to understand what Stanford wants to do on offense,” said West Coast recruiting analyst Adam Gorney. “He’s going to be able to sit in meetings and catch on really quickly. He’s coachable – he takes to coaching well, so if they want him to move inside, outside, wherever on the field, he’s going to be able to adapt easily. And then he has the physical skills to be able to be a pretty special player in the Pac 12. I think he does need to develop physically. He needs to put more muscle on. He’s nowhere near as (tall) his older brother, not as small as his younger brother (5-8). He’s kind of in between there. Good size, not great size yet. He needs to get stronger.”

Other Mater Dei football signees who will play in the Pac 12 next season include safety Xavier Bell (Arizona), nose tackle Austin Faoliu (Oregon), defensive lineman Connor Brazeel (Cal) and defensive back Quentin Lake (UCLA).

Two other Mater Dei defensive standouts, cornerback Jalen Cole (Montana State) and cornerback/safety Roman Kafentzis (Boise State), signed with their respective colleges.

At UCLA, Lake will be following the footsteps of his father, former Bruin All-American linebacker Carnell Lake, who currently coaches cornerbacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carnell Lake was named All-Pro five times in his 12-year NFL career, and served as an assistant coach at UCLA before moving on to the Steelers.

Quentin Lake, a first-team All-Orange County selection in 2016, had several offers from other colleges, “but once I got the UCLA offer it was pretty obvious,” he said.

The 6-4, 295-pound Faoliu, who transferred before his senior year from Trinity League rival JSerra to Mater Dei, was also a first-team all-county selection.

On National Signing Day, Faoliu received late scholarship offers from USC and Michigan, because some players suddenly backed out of their commitments. But Faoliu turned both of them down and signed with Oregon. In January, Faoliu verbally committed to Arizona, but withdrew that commitment and agreed to sign with the Ducks. Faoliu also had offers from Arizona State, Baylor, Illinois, Ole Miss, TCU, Texas, Virginia, Washington State, UCLA, Nebraska, Nevada and San Jose State, among others.

The 6-2, 215-pound Brazeel last season had eight tackles, including six for a loss, along with two sacks, one caused incomplete and one quarterback hurry.

The 6-2, 185-pound Bell, who also entertained offers from Nevada and Oregon, had three inceptions in 2016, along with 33 solo tackles (40 total), giving him a career total of 62 tackles and 49 solo. “(Bell) is a quiet leader,” Rollinson said.

The 5-8, 160-pound Cole, who had two inceptions, two pass deflections and 32 solo tackles (39 total) in Mater Dei’s championship campaign, also had scholarship offers from Idaho, Colorado State, Brown, Columbia and Cornell.

Kafentzis ended the season as Mater Dei’s fourth-leading tackler, along with two sacks and seven pass deflections. One of Kafentzis’ inceptions came in the Monarchs’ epic 26-21 win over St. John Bosco in the teams’ Trinity League clash in October.

Other Mater Dei athletes to sign or make a college commitment were Addison Hermstad in beach volleyball (Tulane), Gretchen Shoeberger in women’s crew (Harvard) and Myles Stapelberg in men’s water polo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Representing Mater Dei’s girls’ soccer program and signing with their colleges were Faith Harper (Michigan), Hailey Hopkins (Vanderbilt), Lauren McKimmey (UC Irvine) and Brittany Wiehe (Eastern Michigan).